MONTPELIER -- Vermont is the only state not covered by the Obama administration’s sweeping new plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent over the next 15 years, but the state will still benefit by working with other states to meet the goals, Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz said Monday.
Vermont isn’t bound by the proposed regulations released Monday because the state doesn’t have any fossil-fuel fired power plants, Markowitz said.
Nevertheless, the state is planning to work with others to meet the broader goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reap the benefits of innovative energy saving programs that are already helping the state.
Markowitz said the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an effort among several states that’s aimed at reducing carbon dioxide pollution by setting limits on power plant emissions, has brought $12 million into the state in its first five years with most of the money being used to help pay for energy efficiency programs.
The new EPA rules could see the initiative expanded, she said.
"We’re going to get the benefits, without having to write the plan and have the burden so for Vermont it’s a double win," Markowitz said.
On Monday, the Obama administration released the 645-page plan that is expected to be finalized next year. It’s a centerpiece of the president’s efforts to deal with climate change. Under the plan, carbon emissions are to be reduced 30 percent from 2005 levels.
Markowitz said Vermont has been suffering the effects of climate change with the series of floods over the past several years, the most destructive of which was 2011’s Tropical Storm Irene.
Vermont is one of the lowest per-capita producers of carbon dioxide, both in absolute and per capita terms. Markowitz said it’s because much of the state’s electricity comes from renewable sources of energy, including hydro-electricity.
"It’s because our electric sector is really very clean," Markowitz said. "We’ve been ahead of the game in looking at renewables and making sure that our mix of electricity tends toward renewable, so we’ve been at this awhile."
The majority of carbon emissions in Vermont come from transportation, which is why the state is encouraging the use of electric vehicles, she said.